Cecily Aguilar, the woman charged in connection with the 2020 killing of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen, has been sentenced to the maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.
Aguilar pleaded guilty last year to one count of accessory after the fact, and three counts of making a false statement. According to authorities, Aguilar’s boyfriend at the time, Spc. Aaron Robinson, killed and dismembered Guillen, then reportedly recruited Aguilar to help dispose her body near Fort Cavazos, Texas (formerly known as Fort Hood).
Robinson died by suicide in 2020 as authorities closed in on him, leaving Aguilar as the only person charged in connection to Guillen’s death.
“Our hope is that today’s sentence brings a sense of relief and justice to the Guillen family, who have endured such pain throughout these past few years,” US Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas said in a statement Monday. “Ms. Aguilar’s actions were indefensible.”
After her sentencing, Mayra Guillen, the sister of Vanessa Guillen, spoke at a news conference. She expressed relief that Cecily Aguilar had been held accountable for her crimes and that the family could now begin to move on.
Federal prosecutors in Texas had previously released a statement detailing Cecily Aguilar’s involvement in the death of Vanessa Guillen and her subsequent help in attempting to cover up Robinson’s crimes. It was revealed that Aguilar attempted to alter and destroy evidence from Robinson’s Google account, as well as making false statements to federal investigators.
Aguilar received the maximum sentence for her actions – 30 years – with prosecutors citing her “corrupt” role in the case.
Private First Class Vanessa Guillen, 20, was reported missing in April of 2020 from Fort Hood in Texas. After weeks of her family, investigators and civilian volunteers searching hectically, her body was finally found in a shallow grave on June 30. It was later revealed that Robinson had brutally killed Guillen in an armory room with a hammer and then proceeded to dismember and attempt to burn her body before burying it in three separate holes with the help of another suspect, Aguilar. At a press conference held by deceased’s family recently, Aguilar asked for forgiveness, which came as a surprise. However, the genuineness of the apology has been questioned by those close to her, as they find it difficult to imagine the sudden change in demeanor that Aguilar allegedly underwent.
The story of Vanessa Guillen, the US Army Specialist who went missing in April 2020 and was later found dead, has resulted in an introduction of major policy reforms within the military. After her disappearance, social media was flooded with stories of sexual assault and harassment from women within the military who used the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen.
It was not until 2021 that these changes were made legally binding, with President Joe Biden signing off on the “I Am Vanessa Guillen Act”. This act removed decisions about sexual assault and harassment from a soldier’s chain of command, thus providing a more supportive environment. In addition, sexual harassment was criminalized in accordance with Uniform Code of Military Justice.
In her statement to the court on Monday, Natalie Khawam, the attorney representing Guillen’s family said that there must be repercussions for anyone who commits heinous acts such as concealing someone’s body. Khawam expressed that it is essential to make an example out of this case to ensure that such acts will never occur again on US military turf.